THEY SAID WE HAD 17 HOURS
You could say yikes! 16:55:01--you barely made it. But I prefer to say I did exactly as I planned and enjoyed every minute of the time allowed. And I did.
I never said I would finish much under 17 hours. In fact, my secret goal time was 16:49--based on my training times and my races this year. Also in fact, I have my own theory of Ironman finishing times and I'm usually pretty close. My dream goal was 16:30.
From the start of 2009, I trained with a basic thought of completing this race. It wasn't the foremost race on my mind, because I had decided to go from race to race, phase to phase, before I decided if I would really do this or even be able to do this.
While I had a solid training base through the Muncie half Ironman in July, until then, there was only the goal to hopefully be able to do this race. It was "out there" but nothing definitive. While I wanted to do this race, I wasn't sure I actually could.
After July, I thought "why waste the training??" and the training continued. And I really had no doubt that I could. The only problem with my plan was that everyone I knew who was training for an Iron distance race was either tapering or winding down their training, while I was trying to build on my training. So I never had anyone to seriously train with. And I feel extremely bad about "forcing" Don to train with me the last couple of months. when he clearly was unable to do so a lot of the time, and thus restricting some of my last few weeks of training.
So I trained alone. Week after week after week. I slugged it out with the bad weather, the low temps, the rain, but still worried that I could not cut it. Not in the time allowed at least. I have the endurance. I have the determination. I just don't have the speed. If the race could be finished"whenever" I would do this every year, no problem! But to actually pull it off in 17 hours?? Not really sure that could happen. I love training. I will do it all year round. I am just not that great at races.
But race day came and I had to get out there and do what I signed up to do.
I am going to fast forward, since I already posted a race report. Here are my plus and minuses for the race.
The biggest plus was it was a great destination race. Any trip that includes the ocean and the beach is tops for me, and added to that was the fantastic weather. The mornings were cool, but the days were perfect weather, just like race day, perfect weather. I loved Wrightsville Beach and North Carolina in general.
The plus for the swim was it was very fast for me: 1:14. They say that was due to the current, but I hardly felt the current until trying to get out of the water. Maybe it was the buoyancy of the salt water but I was more than pleased with my swim. I love swimming in open water and I really loved this swim. I started wondering if I would ever get out after the 4 wrong turns, but I really enjoyed it. It wasn't that crowded, which was another plus for me. I was terrified of all those people in the swim, but it wasn't even a factor. The only minus was the rubbing of my arms on my wetsuit, something I never noticed before, although it has happened in the past and I didn't realize where the chafing came from--I just didn't realize it was the wetsuit that caused it until now. And of course here the salt water made it apparent right from the start. I still have quite a big patch of rash to clear up.
The plus for the bike was it was such a beautiful day I didn't mind being out there all day, and that's exactly what it was, out there all day. The course also was fairly good. There were places I could have done without, especially at the end, but for the most part I marveled at the low volume of traffic for such long stretches. The minus here was the wind--a headwind at the end, a cross wind for the middle part. It slowed me down more than the overall distance would have, even though I had no high expectations of finishing much before I did. My predicted time was 7:50. My actual was around 8:10 (looking at results, I see they added my swim transition into the bike, making it look worse than it was). I would have been surprised at anything under 7:45. Another minus was the long stretch (38 miles) on Hwy. 421. Once I turned onto that, I only saw one person the entire time other than the few stragglers at the aid stations and Don. And I didn't like all the traffic at the end either.
The plus for the run was it was not as cold as I expected it to be. The minus of course was the almost immediate darkness and the kind of crazy course. Not a minus because it was dark. I actually prefer running in the dark. It was just that not knowing the course made me a little more tentative with my footing than I might have been otherwise, and found myself walking through areas where the road was bad or I couldn't see very well. After tripping and stumbling several times, I didn't want to take a chance and fall and not be able to get going again.
Another minus was some areas that I'm sure were great to run through were so dark you could barely see them, so it seemed almost a waste for me. But then I realize probably 99% of the participants got to the first run turnaround while it was still light, and a good majority finished before darkness as well.
A big plus was having Don out there on the course since I can actually say he helped me finish on time and gave me encouragement when I wasn't feeling so encouraged.
Another plus was all in all I did not feel that bad the whole time. Yes it was a long day and yes there were times when I wasn't sure of the outcome, but physically I probably could have gone on longer if I had to (not that I wanted to!). The biggest reason for this, for me, was the weather. It was perfect. Never too cold, never hot at all. Comfortable most of the time. Yes I had to do some planning for this that I hadn't thought of a lot before arriving in Wilmington, but being there a few days ahead gave me the chance to observe the weather at various times of the day so I knew what to expect. I also have a temperature guage on my bike computer so I always knew what the temperature was the whole time I was on the bike and it was helpful knowing what it was when I got done, so I could prepare for the run. I know had it been a hot day I would have faded and it would have been much more difficult.
The biggest plus of all was finishing of course and knowing that Karen also finished. So many times I thought of stopping and waiting for her, but I was afraid if I stopped for any length of time I might not get going again. And you never know how others are dealing with things so don't want to interfere. I know from my own perspective I didn't particularly want to do much talking, even when Don showed up, and don't always want to follow someone else's plan, but you also never know what will help.
One minus was the finish line. Being one of the last finishers, there were very few people there and it was nothing like other Ironman finish lines. I don't remember anything I might have said or did finishing. I did hear my name. I don't know if they said anything else. They also didn't really have any warm food left except soup, something I could have had all night if I wanted. I probably would have eaten something if they had it, but it wasn't that big of a deal either. We sort of had our own private party however since Karen had family and friends there and Don was there of course, and the finish line volunteers, who I appreciate very much. But when I watch other IM finishes, I realize we were lacking.
So that leads me to think of a next time.